Army Speeding Up Robotics Acquisition Process.

Author:Lee, Connie

The Army is pursuing new strategies to field ground robots quicker as it prepares for future battles.

For more than a year, the service has adopted a "strategy of adapt, evolve and innovate," said Mark Mazzara, robotics interoperability lead for the program executive office for combat support and combat service support.

Now, the Army is looking to rapidly develop these systems using acquisition tools such as directed requirements and operational needs statements, he said at an Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in National Harbor, Maryland.

"The big difference now is... we're talking about faster is better and taking risks in favor of accelerating programs," Mazzara said.

For instance, the Army was able to accelerate the fielding schedule for the man transportable robotic system increment 2, he noted. Endeavor Robotics won the contract for the development of a lightweight, portable system that can perform reconnaissance on the battlefield and conduct explosive ordnance disposal missions. Although the company was awarded an engineering and manufacturing development contract at the end of 2017, the service eliminated some technical reviews and plans to go straight to conditional materiel release to speed up the timeline, Mazzara said.

The service is taking the same steps for the common robotic system--individual, or CRS(I), a smaller system that provides soldiers with reconnaissance capabilities on a lower level, he added. A contract is slated to be awarded for the program within the next couple of months. Documents for the Trump administration's fiscal year 2019 budget request state full-rate production is scheduled for fiscal year 2021.

The Army is also leveraging other transaction authorities provided by the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Brig. Gen. Clement Coward Jr., deputy director for force protection on the Joint Staff, J-8, said. These allow the service to carry out prototype projects prior to developing enduring programs of record and solidify the requirements for systems, he noted.

"We're going to buy a limited number of things [and] we're going to develop prototypes," he said. "We've got to put them in the hands of soldiers in formations and we need to essentially play with those, break them, understand how to operate differently with those technologies, and understand if we've got the requirement right," he explained.

The service is currently employing this strategy with the squad...

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